The MIT Enterprise Forum was founded by the MIT Alumni Association in 1978 to encourage MIT graduates (and others) to start businesses. It was a valuable resource when I was in the process of founding my last company, MessageMachines. I remember Howard Anderson exhorting an auditorium full of engineers to start companies since they could master business better than business people could master technology.
At yesterday's 2007 Winter Conference the Forum demonstrated that it had something to offer to entrepreneurs at every stage of development. The program, entitled Brave New Web addressed how the internet business has evolved and what it takes to succeed in today's environment, especially on the East Coast.
Jeremy Allaire, CEO of Brightcove (and former board member of Convoq) gave the keynote speech about how to start and build a great online company. A key theme was the need to have a founding team with vision and passion, but to engage the market early and make one's initial customers incredibly successful, even if means modifying the original vision, "Iterate in the marketplace, not the conference room."
Some other points:
- Decide at the beginning what kind of company you want to build, and choose employees, partners, and investors to match.
- Rapid releases are necessary to incorporate learnings from the market
- Participate in industry dialog and invest in thought leadership.
- "Build great products that people will talk about, and if they don’t, you’ve built the wrong products."